A Housing Estate is a medium-to-low density residential area, usually part of a suburb of a town or city in a developed country. They are the most common form of residential area in the UK, and are similarly popular in Europe. They are less prominent in countries with lower population densities, such as the USA and Australia. In contrast to high density housing, such as tower blocks, town housing or the older-style rows of terraced houses associated with the industrial revolution, housing estates usually feature detached or semi-detached houses with small plots of land around them forming gardens. Very often, an estate will be built by a single contractor, with only a few styles of house design, so they tend to be very uniform in appearance. This phenomenon is less prevalent in Australia and the US, where estates often feature individual houses each built to a unique design selected by the initial occupier.
Housing estates are the usual form of residential design used in New towns, where estates are designed as an autonomous suburb, centred around a small commercial centre. Such estates are usually designed to minimise through-traffic flows, and to provide recreational space in the form of parks and greens.
In the UK, housing estates have become prevalent since World War Two, as a more affluent population demanded larger and more spaced apart houses. In addition, the problems incurred by the early attempts at high density tower-block housing turned people away from this style of living. The resulting demand for land has seen many towns and cities increase enormously in size for only moderate increases in population. This has been largely at the expence of rural and green belt land. There is now much evidence coming to light of a severe and detrimental impact on the environment as a result, partly from the change of land use caused by the estates themselves, and partly because most estates encourage rather than discourage the use of the car for transport. Recently, there has been some effort to address this problem by banning the development of out-of-town commercial developments, and encouraging the reuse of brown field sites for residential building. Nevertheless the demand for housing continues to rise, and in the UK at least has precipitated a significant housing crisis.